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The impact of School Sport Partnerships on primary schools:
An in-depth evaluation

EDWARDS, MARK,JUSTIN (2011) The impact of School Sport Partnerships on primary schools:
An in-depth evaluation.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In the five years to 2008, the Labour Government invested over £1.5 billion in physical education. School Sport Partnerships (SSPs) have been at the heart of this unprecedented investment in the subject. Introduced in 2000, the SSP initiative underwent a phased process of nationwide implementation. All state maintained schools are now attached to a SSP. Consisting of a small staff force, SSPs work with groups of primary and secondary schools to increase the quality and quantity of physical education and school sport, and to promote healthy lifestyles.

There have been several national, largely quantitative evaluations of SSPs, which report encouraging findings; the initiative has fulfilled and even surpassed many of its core goals. Whilst such findings are positive, little independent and/or qualitative research has been conducted into the impact of SSPs. This research aims to fill the lacuna by providing an in-depth evaluation of the impact the initiative has had in three primary schools in the north east of England. This evaluation focuses specifically on the views of teaching staff vis-à-vis the implementation of the initiative.

The empirical research consists of semi-structured interviews with teaching staff (n=36) and senior county council and Youth Sport Trust staff. Observation of PE lessons and analysis of schools’ physical education documentation was also conducted. Building on the realistic evaluation method outlined by Pawson and Tilley (1997), the thesis examines the different Contexts, Mechanisms, and Outcomes (CMO) in each of the case-study schools. The CMO configurations are critically explored to assess the different impacts that SSPs have in the schools.

The small sample size allows for an in-depth analysis of each school. The findings suggest that, whilst each school has been affected by their SSP, not all schools benefit from the initiative. In particular, there have been several detrimental outcomes in small rural schools. The goals of SSPs often run contrary to the needs of such schools, with SSP-organised events being inappropriate for schools with small pupil numbers. However, the impact on one of the case study schools – located in a deprived urban area – has been ‘invaluable’.

The findings suggest that further qualitative research should be conducted into the impact of SSPs. Many of the issues raised in the thesis have not been identified in past evaluations, and thus demand further exploration.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:School Sport Partnership, Critical Realism, Evaluation, Physical Education, School Sport, Obesity, Governmentality.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:07 Dec 2011 16:22

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